Artist Interview with Aria From The Little Grey Rabbit

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It’s my pleasure to introduce Aria from The Little Grey Rabbit shop on Etsy! The whimsical work in her and Aaron’s shop inspired this interview. Make sure to check out their shop!

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Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your shop? What made you choose the name “The Little Grey Rabbit”?

I live in the Pacific Northwest on a small country homestead, but my true home is Epernon, France, hence the reason why there is such a strong French influence in my artwork, particularly my roomboxes. My shop is named after our rescue pet, a Mini Rex rabbit named ‘Boo’, the sweetest creature in the world, and thanks to my husband who is a photographer, Boo happens to have her own modeling gig….she’s a complete ham for the camera!

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Where do you gain inspiration from for your paintings, miniature buildings, and dioramas?

My love of architecture and my passion for France inspires many of my miniature buildings, dioramas and landscapes. But there is also the quirky side of me that loves pirates and swamps (yes I know, a weird combination) so it’s not unusual to find paintings of tall ships and the bayou in my shop.

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What’s the process like to create your buildings and dioramas?

Believe it or not (and please don’t laugh), I start out by putting on music that goes with the theme of the piece that I am going to be working on: so if it’s a building in France, I play French music; if it’s a castle, I’ll play medieval or renaissance music, etc..

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I usually start the actual build with a sketch or a reference image. I build the frame work in wood, cutting and fitting each piece together like a puzzle. Then once dry I apply the clay, carving, shaping, sculpting as I go. After which I paint and apply the finishing touches. It can take me anywhere from 2 to 10 weeks from start to finish, depending on the size.

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Are you working on any new projects or works of art?

A project that I have been laboring on for a few months now is a mix of miniature building and canvas painting, with the goal of the painting looking like it comes to life with the miniature building. I loved the idea, but it’s turning out to be more difficult than expected. I never know how labor intensive some projects will be until I get the clay and paint on it.

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New Mexico Artist Christy Schwathe

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Today I’m pleased to introduce artist Christy Schwathe from New Mexico. Her work and story inspires me, and I hope it will inspire you as well!

Can you tell me a little about your background and interests? What’s life like in New Mexico?

I grew up living on the second story of an old house, in a small town in Colorado, where my parents ran a restaurant on the first floor surrounded by vegetable and flower gardens. It was an interesting and busy childhood with days filled with different people and projects and nights falling asleep with the muffled sounds of silverware clattering and delicious smells drifting upstairs. Besides being influenced by the hard work and creativity of my parents, I surrounded myself with artists, both in my family and the community. I figured out early that the restaurant business was way too much work and making art sounded way more fun. Eventually, I ended up earning my degree in art at UNM in Albuquerque, NM, falling in love with printmaking and focusing on that as well as drawing. In the years since school, I’ve worn many hats, all of them creative. I’ve spent time working in art supply stores, printing clothing and t shirts, managing a small open press and for a while I had a small business sewing bags and accessories out of recycled materials before coming back to making my art full time.

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When I found my way to New Mexico, it instantly just felt like home, and I’ve been in the state ever since. New Mexico is a unique place, perhaps a bit rough around the edges but filled with the traditions and histories of many different cultures that make this financially poor place feel so rich in other aspects. There is an inherent creativity here, mostly brought about by necessity, that seems to magically turn everyone into an artist of some sort. Beyond the cultural richness, the creativity, the sunshine and the natural beauty of the place the thing that always made it feel like home to me is how friendly people are here. New Mexico is the kind of place where strangers will not only say hello to you, but will end up sharing their life story with you while you pass the time waiting in line somewhere. Having gotten so used to this friendly, laid-back style, I’m not sure if I could ever get used to being anywhere else.

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For the time being, I am living in the tiny village of Costilla, north of Taos with my partner, Bradley Sleep, also an artist and a silversmith, and a handful of cats. Here, you are more likely to hear Spanish being spoken than English and humans are far outnumbered by the elk, coyote and rattlesnakes, inhabited homes outnumbered by long abandoned, adobe structures slowly melting back into the earth. It is a bit lonely and harsh around here, despite being beautiful, which I find alternately frustrating and inspiring. When I’m not working in my little studio, I stay busy with my other obsessions, sewing, knitting, small scale farming, and cooking (oh how I miss the convenience of take out). And when we find rare moments of time to do something else, Bradley and I head out into the valley to explore and do a bit of rock hounding or up into the mountains for some hiking or camping.

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Many of your pieces combine the female figure or portrait with elements from nature, or are devoid of any context and are simply a portrait. What kind of inspiration do you draw on when creating these?

I’ve always been drawn to the human form as a means of communicating emotion and I tend to gravitate towards female subjects simply because, being female myself, I relate more strongly to them. The inspiration for my subject matter comes directly from my own life, living in a solitary space and surrounded by almost nothing but nature. I think the solitary nature of many of my pieces also speaks to what I see as a trend of people feeling more alone and isolated in our current society. It seems to me that most of us suffer from feeling disconnected, from each other and from nature, and so my own personal experience relates more abstractly to humanity as a whole. I also draw on the sense of strength and independence I see in the people of this area, where people dig their heels in, work hard against the elements and adversity and emerge even stronger on the other side.

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What’s the process like of creating one of your mixed media works? How did you develop such a unique style?

My mixed media pieces seem to surface from the refuse of my life. I have an annoying habit of not wanting to throw anything away and tend to keep and collect little scraps of paper, fabric, xeroxed copies of found things, old books, words and sentences cut from magazines, anything that interests me visually, conceptually or texturally. Seeking inspiration, I’ll start dumping all these bits and pieces out, fumbling through them until I find something I feel I have to use and starting with piecing together a background of sorts. Often, I am wondering what would this or that look like mixed with this or that and maybe with this on top, so I try it and see where it goes. For example, with my ransom poem paintings, I start with a background, then work on painting an image (typically a figure or portrait) on top and end with piecing together the poem, seeking words and phrases that reinforce the emotion I’m hoping to convey while at the same time keeping it all somewhat cryptic, I never want it to lose all sense of mystery.

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My style tends to shift around a bit as I grow and learn as an artist, and I quickly get bored with doing the same thing over and over. I think my style stays unique through it all because that’s just the way it comes out, that’s just the way my hands and my eyes and my brain communicate with one another. There are an infinite number of things to draw and paint and an infinite number of ways to draw or paint them, but no matter how I approach a piece and expect it to turn out it always seems to come out looking like something I made, even when my original intentions are quite different than the finished art.

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How has business been on Etsy so far? Do you have any goals for the business or any upcoming projects that you’re working on?

Sales through my Etsy store seem to come in waves, I’ll have good months and bad months and it provides a supplemental income for me that adds to my sales through my local gallery in Taos, Taos Artisan’s Gallery, and direct sales of my art. Being able to have an online store through Etsy has really allowed me to reach out, from my little isolated chunk of the planet, to the rest of the world and share and sell my art to people who never would have seen it otherwise, so priceless for those of us living in rural areas.

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The latest addition to my little business was the purchase of a really nice printer and a fancy schmancy camera which, after learning how to use both of them, have allowed me to make high quality, archival prints from my originals. These days, I’ve been working on a lot of time consuming, original oil paintings that I sell through my gallery. I love investing so much in each piece, but I realize that it often puts them in a price range that is unattainable for many people. The fact that I can now make prints to order at affordable prices makes me feel like more people can get their hands on my art and I’ve been working on adding more and more prints to my store.

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My long and short term goals are pretty simple and pretty much the same… every single day I get to keep working on my art is a small success!

Make sure to like Christy’s Facebook page and check her out on Etsy!

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Handmade Eco-Friendly Brooches from Dariakash

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Good morning everyone! Today’s artist interview is between myself and Dariaka from the Etsy shop DariakashDariaka’s shop is based in Prague, Czech Republic, and she loves to create fun, eco-friendly brooches from recycled material.

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How did you become inspired to make your mixed media and paper mache brooches?

All my life I’ve always loved to sew, glue, cut, and invent new things. I always liked to embody my ideas in something created by my hands. As a child I sewed clothes for dolls, and invented houses and furniture for them. Then I began to sew for myself, to alter my mother’s old clothes or stuff I bought from a second hand shop. I loved to make original accessories for myself – earrings, necklaces, rings, but most of all I loved to make brooches. My friends wondered why I would make such interesting things for myself and not sell them, but I did not even think it was possible. I had another profession at the time – I was a sound engineer and always had a lot of work, and never time for anything else.

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Despite lack of time,  I always dreamed that my accessories would be worn by other people. Finally one day I met someone in the street that wanted one of my brooches. I clearly realized that I must change my life and do what I wanted to realize my dreams. It was then that I went to another country, began to paint, changed my profession (now I study film animation) and began to make brooches.

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Why mixed media? Because I have always loved trifles – beads, buttons, badges, pieces of fabric … As a child I brought whole pockets, wrappers, pins, stones, most of which I found on the street. Now I am always out at flea markets. I’ve got the idea to connect all these little things in my brooches. A perfect base for me is paper mache, because it seems to me alive, in contrast with plastic. At the same time this technique is very affordable if you compare it with something like ceramics, which requires a roasting oven.

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What kinds of materials inspire you the most? What kinds of materials inspire you the most?

I am most inspired by paper and paper mache, which gives me a kind of artistic freedom that I love. I can make beauty from nothing – there is always an empty egg box, from which I make sculpting bases for brooches- there are always old newspapers or magazines, with which I can paint on or make collages on brooches with.

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What kind of process do you go through in order to create one of your brooches?

For me it’s important to just sit down at the table and start working. To begin to sculpt, to spread out all the scraps I have, to put all the beads in front of me, to open magazines, to start to cut eyes, boots, hands – and then the ideas come – all the pieces begin to connect. Even when I have a concrete idea and I clearly imagine the brooch I want to make, thought the process it always becomes something else because suddenly I see a button that I like, or paints will mix to another color, and then I’ll choose another fabric, and decide that the bird will not have jeans but a shirt.
I do not believe in waiting for inspiration, to me it never came just spontaneously. I am confident that I must work and always look for inspiration, and then only through the process are my ideas born.

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Can you talk a little bit about the eco-friendly aspect of your brooches?

Once long ago I watched a documentary about how our planet is already overcrowded by garbage, which influenced me very much. After that I did not hurry to throw out old stuff. If I did not like my jeans anymore, I would alter them into a skirt – if a chair was broken, I would made a shelf from it. So it is with my brooches – I just don’t throw out the old buttons and beads, magazines and newspapers, the remains of fabric after reworking a dress. With these materials I make a completely new and different thing that brings me joy – a new brooch.

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I also try not use any chemical additives when working. Paper pulp, from which I make the basis for my brooches, consists of egg boxes, wheat flour, potato starch and water – that is all! I also use a non-toxic glue and paint. I had the idea to combine the stained glass technique with paper mache, but because of the presence of lead in solder and toxicity of pastes for soldering I abandoned the idea.
Of course what I do is but a drop in the ocean, but I believe that every little bit helps.

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Make sure to visit Dariakash on Etsy and follow her below!

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From New Zealand to Isreal: An Interview With Artist Emily Penso

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I am honored to introduce the wonderful artist Emily Penso, who has a quite interesting life story! Emily sells her surreal and whimsical artwork in her Etsy shop, Studio Lavaan, and excitedly agreed to be interviewed on the blog!

  • Can you just tell me a little about yourself; where did you grow up, go to school, what are you up to now?

I was lucky enough to grow up in New Zealand, in the South Island city of Dunedin. It was a wonderful place to grow up and although it’s quite a cold part of the world, most of my childhood memories involve sunshine and bare feet.

I am the middle of three children, with two wonderfully loving and supportive parents  who shaped our world with a comfortable home, a love of the outdoors and an appreciation of the arts – I remember many a boring gallery trip! But although at the time I would have preferred to be playing with Barbie or some other weird toy, there was always at least one art work that would completely mesmerize me.  

 During my high school years (sweet 16) my Dad landed a job in Canberra, Australia. So my small world got bigger and we moved across the Tasman. It was a tough move for me, but character building, and definitely helped guide me into pursuing art.  I ended up studying painting at the Canberra School of Art which was just awesome and completely changed my life.  
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Now, curiously, I find myself living in Israel (which is another epic tale, but involves meeting a beautiful Israeli in India and marrying him in Cyprus). We live in a lovely village on a hill with our two completely gorgeous boys, and a white cat and a black dog. We have a small olive grove which we use for making oil, a small studio which I use for making art, and lots of little vegetable gardens. It suits us well. 

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  • Your work is so surreal and whimsical, where did the inspiration for these types of works come from? Is there anything else that inspires you, just in general?

I guess my mind has always been a bit of a peculiar place, and for as long as I can remember I have been fascinated by things that are out of the ordinary. My earliest surrealist influence almost certainly came from Rene Magritte.  My parents had a book on Magritte and throughout my childhood I loved pawing through the pages. It was entertainment that never got old, no matter how old I got, and every time I looked I would discover something new.

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Another big influence would be dreams. I am a serious dreamer – day dreams and night dreams – but I am particularly inspired by night dreams as they are totally wild, complete raw sub-consciousness, and always purely surreal.  

The world around me is also a major source of inspiration; Birds, insects, trees, people, land forms, and the interactions between everything that exists – I am constantly in awe of this world we live in. It never gets boring! It is a mysterious moving masterpiece that I love being a part of. This spiritual connection that I have with life is also a bit of an influence. It is much easier for me to articulate what it is that I feel spiritually through drawing than words.

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  •  A lot of your work looks like it has been sparked by unique ideas. What have been some your favorite ideas to explore with your art?  

  “You know, most of the time my work starts as a visual idea rather than a concept that I want to communicate (consciously anyway) but always through the process of making the work I begin to understand the symbolism of what I am drawing and mostly it’s personal feelings, thoughts, experiences. I approach my work with intuition, but execute it in a very precise way! Some of my favorite visual themes have been playing with scale relationships between figures, mirroring birds, and using clouds as a very deliberate compositional device (with meaning!)

Clouds have been popping up a lot lately and they are beginning to take the centre stage. I love clouds.

  •  Do you have any advice to artists or future artists on how to promote their work or how to approach getting their work out there? Advice in general?
 I think not being afraid of self-promotion is something that many artists need to overcome, and is definitely something that I have struggled with, and still struggle with to a degree. I guess I would advise emerging artists to think about what it is they want out of their art practice and use that goal to guide them in how they promote their work.
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In general, to get your work out there… approach galleries, apply for exhibitions, get help with submitting great proposals if necessary, collaborate with other artists, get involved in open group shows, exhibit as often as you can, enter art competitions, get the social media happening, create a website, open an Etsy store, take all the steps that you think are important for you as an artist. And of course…don’t let knock backs get you down, because they will happen, and great things will also happen!
  • Do you do anything fun/interesting in your free time? Any favorite hobbies or weekend activities?  

Wow, free time is something that is completely foreign to me! My little boys keep me very busy! But, I do manage to squeeze in a little bit of yoga and any chance I get I am in the garden.  In my down time I have been known to play ‘words with friends’ on my phone ( I’m mildly addicted). If I had more free time I would love to make pebble mosaic stepping stones, sew stuff ,and I’d also restore all the shabby vintage furniture that I have collected.

When my boys are all grown up I would like to do my masters, it’s a nice dream, and I’d love to learn more skills, like basket weaving and everything to do with textiles.

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You can also find Emily on her Facebook Fanpage: Emily Penso Fanpage 

And her website: emilypenso.com

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An Interview With Ines Rocio: Etsy Artist

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This interview is between myself and Ines Rocio from the inesrocio Etsy shop. She is a visual artist living in Portugal and her work is beautiful! Make sure to show her shop some love!  

Your wearable art has vivid colors and each piece is stunningly beautiful in a very natural kind of way. What inspired you to create these pieces and what process do you go through to make them?  

First of all thank you for the invitation and for your kind words about my art work.

Nature is my great source of inspiration, I am fascinated by the vividness of colors, organic, natural architecture, overlapping tones, rhythms and energy.

The creative process begins by being in contact with the natural elements, like strolling through the park or the beach, as a botanist, collect small natural treasures, with which at the Atelier, I give life and energy to natural wearable art pieces. In the jewelry making, I use these elements as a template for the sculptural process, because I like the pace, energy and organic-ness that they give.

The watercolor is undoubtedly the artistic medium with which I identify most, because as my painting is very spontaneous, allows for endless diversity of hues, besides it is a clean paint technique  and more environmentally friendly. Really like to use metallic pigments, especially the gold because in my opinion it adds richness and luminosity to the paintings.

My painting is mostly intuitive, and I like to explore the various dimensions of pigments freeform, almost always with the purpose of transposing the metaphysical vibration and positive energy that nature gives me, through art. The creative act transcends me as an individual.

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Do you ever wear them to show them off? They look like they would make great conversation starters.   

Yes I really like to wear my pieces, they symbolize a little piece of nature and convey to me a very positive energy. It is this joy that I want to share with my clients.

My pieces are very colorful and get people’s attention. These conversations are usually initiated by my son who is four years old and is a big fan of  his mom’s work, and when he sees me wearing my pieces he makes a point of telling people that were made by me :).

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?  

I am a mother, a women in love and an artist with a background in graphic design.

I’m a dreamer, creative, have liked to paint since I was a child, used to paint flying ponies, rainbows, gardens and houses. I always liked to represent nature in a colorful way.

I really like music, animals (I have two lovely female dogs), love to cook and create different recipes. I like a lot of children’s illustration and romantic stories with happy endings.

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How did you get to where you are today, what inspires you to create and to be an Etsy shop owner?

I have always felt the need to create, but was afraid to assume myself as an artist completely, but thanks to the support of my dear husband, I gained the courage to devote myself entirely to art. I find the Etsy concept fascinating , and I love belonging to this effervescent community where creative people support and motivate each other. I think this concept of sharing extremely inspiring! So for me having a store there makes sense.

How is life in Portugal?

We have plenty of sunshine, many beautiful places to behold and shoot and lots of time during the year to enjoy these same locations. We have vast knowledge and very interesting traditions . We have many extremely creative young artists, for which the current financial crisis has been very hard.

For me, human creativity is a global phenomenon, and the internet an open window to the world and that is the way I chose to guide my work.

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Do you have any future plans for your artwork and your shop?

My goal is to continue to create and feel happy and privileged for it. I like the idea of creating my pieces and seeing them take their course for their future owners, not only because economic necessity is intrinsic to any store (after all the artists have to eat too) but mainly for the joy I have in creating pieces that also make other people happy. 
In the short term I am planning to create my own blog, a space where I will share my love for creativity.  

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